I have had the opportunity — privilege, actually — of being acquainted with President Thomas S. Monson for nearly 45 years. I have “covered him” as a reporter and photographer over those years as he has gone to the far corners of the world to meet with members of the Church in many countries as well as dignitaries, including kings and queens.
I’ve gleaned many impressions of President Monson, but one stands out: He treats everybody with the same respect and courtesy that he gives dignitaries. While giving deference to an office or title, he sees everyone as brothers and sisters, children of Heavenly Father. Latter-day Saints everywhere call him “President Monson.” Quite often, as when he has placed a telephone call, he has said, “This is Brother Monson” or, more familiarly, “This is Tom.”
President Monson genuinely cares about others and follows the Savior’s example in how he cares for them. He has visited the sick and the lonely. He has written countless letters and made innumerable telephone calls to people who need just a few words to cheer them up or to comfort them in their hours of grief. He has delivered food to tables and arranged for commodities and supplies to fill empty cupboards. He has spent his life lifting, encouraging and helping others in the Savior’s way.
President Monson’s 89th birthday is Aug. 21. On his 81st birthday, I asked him to describe what he would consider the ideal gift that members worldwide could give him. Without a moment’s hesitation he said, “Do something for someone else on that day to make his or her life better. Find someone who is having a hard time, or is ill, or lonely, and do something for them. That’s all I would ask.”
That, and an appeal for members everywhere to “keep the commandments and follow the Savior” is what he continues to ask.